Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
I went 10-6 last week and finally broke the .500 barrier, though I left an easy one on the table by moronically taking the Giants in Denver. This week I went a little dog crazy taking 13 of them, and keep in mind two games are pick 'ems. That means I only took one favorite, the Bears. I hadn't realized that and thought about switching the Bucs, Lions or Raiders, but decided against it. I don't care about balance - I just want to get to 11 wins.
Jets -3 at Bills
Maybe I'm missing something here, and there's a reason the Jets are road favorites in Buffalo. It makes me nervous because it's so obvious, and even half the public is on the home dog. Still, I'm sticking with the Bills.
Bills 20 - 16
Eagles -5.5 at Falcons
There are some key injuries for both teams, most notably Matt Ryan and Michael Turner for Atlanta and DeSean Jackson and Brian Westbrook for Philly. Even though Atlanta's are worse, I think this line overcompensates a bit. Back the Falcons who keep it close.
Eagles 21 - 20
Buccaneers +6.5 at Panthers
After seeing the Bucs play close games in Miami and Atlanta the last few weeks, this strikes me as a big line in Carolina. But the public apparently agrees, so it deserves some re-thinking. Do the Bucs get larger lines because their terrible early-season stats are skewing the oddsmakers' (and sharps') models? Or were those solid showings (and the win over Green Bay) merely anomalies for a one-win team? I tend to think it's the former - Vegas is seeing the Bucs run as a surge in capacity, while I see them as a different team with Josh Freeman under center. Back the Bucs who keep it close enough.
Panthers 24 - 23
Rams +9 at Bears
I usually like to back league doormats, but I like the Bears here even off a terrible showing in Minnesota. The Rams couldn't protect Kyle Boller at all last week, and Jay Cutler is still capable of getting into a groove against a lesser defense. Back the Bears who roll.
Bears 31 - 13
Lions +13 at Bengals
The Lions were so unbelievably terrible on Thanksgiving that backing them almost destroyed my appetite. Matthew Stafford looks like he's 15 years old, and I'm waiting for his decision-making skills to catch up to his appearance. He threw a ball well out of the end zone on fourth and goal, and also squeezed high-risk, low-reward passes into double coverage. And the offense is the strength of the team. Still, Calvin Johnson's completely healthy, and the Bengals have been playing so conservatively that barring another Stafford implosion, the game should stay within reach. Back Detroit.
Bengals 24 - 13
Titans +6.5 at Colts
The Colts keep winning, but they're not blowing teams out, and Tennessee is tapping into something right now that the stats and formulas won't pick up on except in retrospect. Back the Titans who pull off the upset.
Titans 19 - 17
Texans pick 'em at Jaguars
This is a lot like the Seahawks-Niners game - we know which team is better, and which we want to take, but home field advantage matters, and the Jaguars are probably the savvy play. Still, I'm going with Houston. Back the Texans.
Texans 27 - 21
Broncos -4.5 at Chiefs
I'm going to assume the Giants were winded and unprepared for the thin Invesco Field air - otherwise, the Broncos are legit Super Bowl contenders, and I don't think that's the case. The Chiefs are a doormat, but at home against a division rival, I'll buy low and take the points. Back Kansas City.
Broncos 17 - 13
Raiders +14 at Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger should be back, and this big line reflects that. I rarely have a strong feeling with these double digit lines where the home team is favored, and when in doubt, go with the dog. Back Oakland.
Steelers 21 - 10
Saints -9.5 at Redskins
The rule for the Redskins this year is no matter who they play always bet the dog. And I can't think of a better time to sell the Saints high than coming off a nationally televised evisceration of the Patriots. It's a short week, and there's likely to be a letdown against a lesser opponent, but one with a better defense. Back the Redskins who cover and possibly win outright.
Redskins 20 - 19
Patriots -5.5 at Dolphins
There are two competing lines of thought here: (1) The Patriots will be incredibly focused after the embarrassing loss on Monday night; and (2) The Dolphins almost always play New England tough, and most people are going to bet the Pats. I'll go with the latter one. Miami will show up to play, and this will be a tough game. Back the Dolphins.
Patriots 31 - 30
Chargers -13 at Browns
I've been backing the Chargers as favorites every week of late, and they've actually come through. But a Southern California finesse team laying 13 on the road in what should be a cold weather game is usually a bad bet - even if the opponent is as inept as the Browns. Back Cleveland.
Chargers 20 - 10
Cowboys -2 at Giants
My Giants pick last week was an act of temporary insanity. I don't know what got into me, and if I could go back in time and change one thing in my life, it would be that. But this week, I think there's a decent buy-low opportunity here, assuming that atrocious showing in Denver (that nearly cost me the Thanksgiving dinner Detroit had made so difficult to get down) was in part caused by the short week and thin air. Back the Giants who keep their season alive at home.
Giants 24 - 20
49ers pick 'em at Seahawks
The obvious play is the 49ers who are the tougher, more determined team, but the savvy play is the Seahawks who are much tougher at home. Like most people I want to take the Niners, and I think I'm going to. Back San Francisco.
49ers 21 - 17
Vikings -4 at Cardinals
I've gone against the Vikings more often than not this year, and they almost always seem to cover. This week, I'll go back to the well with the Cardinals even though it's unclear who their starting quarterback will be. I expect Arizona to move the ball and keep this game close. Back the Cardinals who win outright.
Cardinals 27 - 24
Ravens +3 at Packers
The statheads will be on the Packers, but this is a team that underperforms its stats since Aaron Rodgers took over. The Ravens are the opposite and have managed to play nailbiters against both the Colts and Vikings, so I like the points here. Back Baltimore.
Ravens 23 - 21
We went 10-6 last week to go 89-86-1 on the season. We were 124-122-10 on the regular season last year. From 1999-2008, we are 1308-1140 - not including ties - (53.4 percent).
Article first appeared 12/2/09